The Madman (1962)
O, what fools are these
to have their form of logic
Dictated to them by their predecessors!
a rational being
living in my self-created heaven
while these animals subsist
forever smothered by conformity.
Why do these idiots prattle "facts"?
Can man ever prove a truth,
disprove a dream?
Why then, in this damned world of lunatics
am I, sane, condemned, because I choose
to live as my divine perception rules,
because I choose
Who would stand to prove me wrong?
Civilisation, its culture and its ethics
have grown from seed, with
crooked, twisted branches,
palsied roots and poisoned berries -
Your life is illusionary,
Your knowledge fallacious,
Your world a misconception.
My world is a truth,
I live by my beliefs,
Who would stand to proof me wrong?
Jack Body, composer, ethnomusicologist, teacher, music publisher, record producer, and photographer, born in Te Aroha and educated both here and Europe, is presently an associate professor at Victoria University. His extensive range of compositions includes solo, chamber and orchestral music, music for dance, theatre and film, and electroacoustic music. Jack Body became fascinated with Asian music after an overland journey in 1971 and his subsequent absorption of musical styles outside the Western classical tradition has given him the reputation of a composer who has greatly extended the resources of New Zealand music. Body is a composer of graphic richness and of extreme subtlety and sophistication. Suara: Environmental Music from Java (1978-90/1993), a tape-cycle, Sarajevo (1995) for piano, and Melodies for Orchestra (1983), for example, display technical complexities which establish him as one of our major contemporary artists. He is also noted for the unprecedented vividness with which, in such works as Love Sonnets of Michelangelo (1982), Pulse (1995), and Poems of Solitary Delights (1985), he expresses a sensuously apprehended world. In Turtle Time (1968), a threshold piece about death, the journey out of mortality into ghosthood is presently to be made: the mixture of salutation and farewell sounded in the manipulation of clock-like chimes and a somnambulant drift is the perfect equivalent for the balance between natural grief and the recognition of necessity which pervades Russell Haley's text. In Carol to Saint Stephen (1975), based on the medieval carol "Eya, Martyr Stephane", the reflexiveness of the form is the right correlative for the reflexiveness of the feeling. As the music proceeds, exhortation becomes self-lamentation; the angelic register of the dying martyr's blessing on those who stone him, collapses the distance between man's recognition of his own negative potential and a flash of beatitude which comes with the awareness of life in death and death in life. Jack Body's music never loses touch with the suffered world and it is the undermusic of just such knowledge that makes works like Little Elegies (1985) for orchestra - most known in form that underlays a visual track of news footage depicting atrocities and other "inhumanities" - the common, unrarified expression of a disappointment that is beyond self-pity. The state of things at the end of the opera Alley (1997), finds Rewi Alley an old man making no secret of the prejudice and contrariness at the centre of his nature, nor shirking the bleakness of that last place in himself. Even so, consolation can be found in the sensation of spirit not so much projected onward as brimming over and above the body.
Not all giant trees are broken by the storm
Not all seeds find no soil to strike root
Not all true feelings
Vanish in the desert of man's heart
Not all dreams allow their wings to be clipped
No, not everything ends as you foretold
Body's hybridised musical discourse, melding East and West, serves a purpose whereby each voice can unmask the other. A field recording of rice pounding music ("Kotekan"/Suara) can inform our hearing of, say the first of the Five Melodies (1982) for piano, and the penultimate movement of the cyclic Suara - an old man playing a bamboo jew's harp with choking oversounds ("Music Mulut" (1990)/Suara) - not only underscores the figure of age but prefigures the epilogue, a field recording of pigeons with whistles tied to their tails, winging home at sunset ("Sawangan"/Suara) - a sound which takes in and gives back the signals of a universal solitude.
Robert Hoskins, editor, Massey
University Composer Address series